[Screen It]

(2008) (Shia LaBeouf, Michelle Monaghan) (PG-13)

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Suspense/Thriller: Two strangers are brought together and then sent on a dangerous but meticulously planned mission by a mysterious caller who seemingly knows everything about them and can see and hear everything they do.
Jerry Shaw (SHIA LaBEOUF) is an unassuming guy who enjoys playing poker at the copy center where he works, but is going nowhere fast and doesn't have enough money in his account to make an ATM withdrawal. After the unexpected death of his twin brother, Jerry returns home to find multiple packages have been delivered to his apartment containing weapons, military manuals and the like. Just then, he receives an anonymous phone call that alerts him that the FBI is about to raid his place.

He isn't sure what's going on, but the caller was right and he's soon in FBI custody being questioned by anti-terrorism agent Thomas Morgan (BILLY BOB THORNTON). The latter wants to know what Jerry knows, which is nothing but confusion at this moment. Things get more complicated when Air Force liaison Zoe Perez (ROSARIO DAWSON) shows up investigating the twin's death.

When Jerry's given his one phone call to make, that same anonymous woman from before is on the line, telling him he'll be freed momentarily and that comes true. He ends up paired with divorced mom Rachel Holloman (MICHELLE MONAGHAN) who's similarly received calls from that same mysterious caller who threatens to harm her young son -- who's headed to Washington, D.C. onboard a train to perform in a musical concert -- if she doesn't cooperate.

The two are reluctant partners who quickly realize that the caller can see and hear most everything they do, and can manipulate them, others, and anything related to technology around them. Without knowing their exact purpose or the outcome of this manipulation, the two are directed by the caller every step of the way, eventually drawing the interest of all sorts of government officials.

With Zoe joined by Major William Bowman (ANTHONY MACKIE) who reports to Defense Secretary Callister (MICHAEL CHIKLIS), and with Agent Morgan still hot on their trail, Jerry and Rachel rush along at breakneck speed, unaware of the implications of the caller using them as her pawns.

OUR TAKE: 4.5 out of 10
Let's face it, while the promise of technology decades ago was that it was going to free people from everyday burdens and make their lives better, it's actually enslaved a vast majority, both directly and indirectly. Beyond the compulsive need to be connected 24/7 -- be that via cell phones, texting, the Internet and round-the-clock cable news channels -- it's hard to go anywhere in the world for some old-fashioned, pre-technology peace and quiet, what with people jabbering away on their phones, and electronic ads reminding us of products, often technology-based, that will make our lives better.

Then there's the invasion of privacy issue. Aside from hackers stealing and selling your info, and websites tracking your every move online (natch, to show you ads supposedly personalized to your viewing and clicking habits), there's the big brother element of local and federal governments having the ability to know many if not all of your moves, especially if you're of interest to them.

The latter comes into play in the thriller "Eagle Eye" that reunites director D.J. Caruso with star Shia LeBeouf following their initial pairing in 2007's "Disturbia." The latter costars with Michelle Monaghan as strangers unwittingly forced together by a mysterious caller who can see, hear and/or manipulate them as long as some form of technology is nearby.

That female voice then sends them on an increasingly perilous quest where the end result is initially just as nebulous as the caller. The result is one of those movie thrill park rides where the sooner one turns off one's mind and just goes along with the flow, the easier it will be for the proceedings to entertain you, at least to some degree.

This is one of those films that's hard to review, however, since so much rests on a pivotal plot point that's revealed somewhere in the middle of the script that's been penned by the quartet of John Glenn (no, not that one) & Travis Adam Wright, Hillary Seitz and Dan McDermott. While that revelation explains the film's early preposterousness (that someone can control so much technology and seemingly see and hear all), it opens another layer of even greater credibility-straining material.

Let's just say it bares something of a resemblance to a certain Stanley Kubrick film ("Open the pod bay doors, HAL) as well as a John Badham one ("Shall we play a game?"). It's not as creepy and deliberate as the former, or as frightening and entertaining in a "Omigosh that could really happen" way (back in the early '80s) as the latter, but there's no denying Caruso steps on the gas and doesn't let up much once the premise is established and the action begins.

The problem -- beyond the aforementioned "try not to think too hard about it" credibility issues -- is that the filmmaker over-directs at times. Obligatory car chase sequences end up over-edited and shot in a dizzying, close-up style that ends up doing the opposite of the intended outcome (turning an exciting moment into a less than stellar, let alone engaging cinematic one).

LaBeouf is okay in the role in terms of experiencing exasperation and running about, but early material regarding him growing up in the shadow of his overachieving twin brother ultimately doesn't add much to the mix. Monaghan's character comes with the built-in auto-sympathy feature (she's worried about her young son's safety) and is likewise okay, but their chemistry (purposefully not romantic, but instead initially antagonistic morphing into partners in need) never really ignites.

Billy Bob Thornton plays the obligatory, determined government official (and gets the film's funniest comic relief lines), while Michael Chiklis is appropriately government like and officially stuffy, but Rosario Dawson feels somewhat miscast as a more proactive Air Force liaison.

I'll admit I was never bored while watching the film (especially once I gave up on holding out hope for the preposterousness to wane) and still like the overriding story concept. It's just that the execution leaves a bit to be desired, and you don't need surveillance cameras or a computer analyzing that data to come to that same conclusion. "Eagle Eye" rates as a 4.5 out of 10 for sheer, turn off your brain, escapist entertainment.

Reviewed September 23, 2008 / Posted September 26, 2008

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